Makerspaces come in all shapes and sizes, but typically serve as a gathering place where people have access to various tools, interesting projects and even mentors. While the exact components of a makerspace may vary, they are all learning environments that are rich with possibilities. The Makerspace hosted by EdSurge at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas was no different. During this four day conference, people were demonstrating 3D printing, robotics, fablabs, and design thinking around the perimeter of the room. In the center of the room, there were tables with legos. The space was incredibly creative which encouraged you to linger and learn, both from the exhibitors and from other individuals. The development of the space itself contributed to the likelihood that you would connect with a wide range of people including educators, software designers, and policy makers, all passionate about rethinking education.
One of the most exciting tools being demonstrated in this space was Tynker, a creative computer programming platform designed to teach children programming skills in a fun and imaginative way. Tynker has been developed by a local bay area company (three of the founding members are Los Altos School District parents) and is being used in our Grade 6 CSTEM class, taught by Sheena Vaidyanathan. We are encouraged by the success of Tynker in LASD schools. Students are enjoying learning how to code and creating very imaginative products in the process. We hope to continue our partnership with Tynker and look forward to discussing how to expand the use of their platform beyond Grade 6. We were most impressed to discover the backs of their business cards featuring unique student creations, many of which were designed by Los Altos students using Tynker.
Also featured in the Makerspace was Karl Wendt from Khan Academy who was there showcasing his newly designed robotics projects: Itsy, Bitsy, Spider, and Spout. We have enjoyed collaborating with Karl and are proud to have Los Altos School District involved in helping to refine his online tools for teacher implementation of both the Spout and Spider bot projects. This project is an extension of our collaborative relationship with Khan Academy formed in 2010 when we piloted their free online math software and created blended learning environments.
|Prototypes from Mt. Vernon School|
|Alyssa Gallagher, Dale Dougherty,|
Kami Thordarson in Makerspace, SXSWedu
Edsurge hosted the Makerspace, creating a truly exciting space for learning and networking. Stopping by for a short creative brain break led to a mixed conversation at a table with Nikhil Goyal, a 17 year old author, Kirsten Bailey from Hootsuite, and Leonard Medlock from Edsurge. It was lively debate around higher education and the direction needed to create true reform in education.
As we leave SxSWedu we are inspired to think more about creating these dynamic learning spaces for both our teachers and our students. Our first attempt at creating a dynamic learning space for teachers is an awesome start, but as we move forward, we need to create the same environments and opportunities for our students.
Contributed by: Kami Thordarson, Innovative Strategies Coach & Alyssa Gallagher, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction